The main type of anime, well entertainment in general, that I have viewed on TV and film has mostly come from the action genre in my journey of being an anime fan. My other favorite genres besides action are adventure, comedy, horror, sci-fi, supernatural, magic, fantasy, thriller, and mystery. The list can go on and on of the anime series and films that I have viewed from my favorite genres, but there is only a very finite number of anime that I have viewed in the psychological genre, or even the slice of life genre. Since I started this blog, I decided to get into more genres that I have never really shown interest for in my years watching anime.
The main purpose of this article is to give you my non-spoiler review of a great 1997 psychological horror anime film known as Perfect Blue. It was directed by Satoshi Kon and written by Sadayuki Murai. Perfect Blue the film is actually based on a novel known as Perfect Blue: Complete Metamorphosis authored by Yoshikazu Takeuchi. The film first premiered at the Fantasia Film Festival in Montréal during the beginning of 1997, and then premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival in Germany two weeks before the official Japanese premiere in 1998.
Also, I think it’s best to watch the film with the original Japanese voice acting and read with subtitles of course. You can watch it with the dub if you want to, but I suggest watching the original voice acting first.
The Premise of the Film
A pop idol singer named Mima wants to change her image from being a pop idol to an actress, but this metamorphosis maybe sending her down a path of madness. All at the same time, there is a stalker fan of Mima harassing her from the shadows.
Perfect Blue’s Most Relevant Genres
Although, there is the sub-genre of dementia interestingly sprinkled along the film, which profoundly messes with the viewers mind, but this is all done on purpose to get into the confused mind of the main character. Anyway, this should give you some hints of whether you’re interested in a psychological horror anime film such as Perfect Blue.
The main character Mima is definitely a complex character because she is seen as a pop idol all over Japan, but she’s actually just an ordinary girl having a mental breakdown from a change in image or identity. Also, to my astonishment, all the characters are complex as well, even the background characters. The characters have motivations, concerns, and opinions, especially the character that is always stalking Mima.
The Mood of Perfect Blue
The mood of the story is to make you feel confused as to what is real or fake, even though Perfect Blue is a fictional story. I would go as far to say that the film has some qualities similar to the films The Matrix and Inception, because you think you’re in the real world, but it’s actually all fake. Or Maybe the fake world is the real world, and it’s like how do you know which is real.
The theme that the film is trying to convey to us is that what we perceive might be a lie or a conspiracy. Basically the filmmaker is saying that you should not always trust what your eyes are telling you. The other theme I see is that the influence and pressure of being a celebrity can push you to madness.
This story does place a lot of emphasis on the main character and the stalker. There is a such thing as being too much of a fanatic, and it can drive you to do terrifying and horrible things to yourself or to others. I might be missing something from the film, but all film is subjective, so you can take the film in any way you want.
Animation and Sound
The film uses animation to demonstrate characters who are falling or who have already fallen into insanity. It used the right kind of cinematography that greatly complemented the psychological horror genre of the film. I noticed there was a lot of things that were colored bright red throughout the movie, and I believe it was done on purpose to let the audience know how slowly Mima’s mental state began to crack.
Perfect Blue appropriately used the Dutch shot to show uneasiness and how a character is not in control of their sanity. They used certain types of jump cuts to warp reality to make us just as psychologically confused as the main character. Panning and tracking movements were used to follow characters sometimes in normal situations, but mostly in more intense situations.
This anime film was also drawn by hand, and the animators used an art style that made the characters of pop idols and actors stand out more than the characters who are not well-known. Plus, the stalker of the main character was drawn especially creepy to purposefully make the audience feel a little unsettled by the character design. There were many other cinematography techniques that the animators used to make most of the film seem dark and terrifying, and give us an idea of a character’s mental state.
Perfect Blue does use some split edits with the audio, and there are a couple scenes in particular where they use L cuts and J cuts with two songs from the films pop idol group CHAM!. There were a lot of silent scenes behind dialogue, but it works since they use sounds such as television reports, trains passing by in the background, spectator shouts, flashing sounds from cameras, and any other realistic sounds that usually occur in someone’s environment of a city.
Whenever it seems like the MC is being watched or threatened, the film plays this eerie industrialized and compressed composition. And a couple scenes where characters are being attacked, the film plays a very electronic rhythm that kept me on edge. The film also plays creepy ambient and humming melodies during situations that are shocking or off-putting for a character, especially when the MC is being driven to insanity.
Also, the Japanese voice actors did great, but there was only a few that stood out the most. When a certain character finds something that they did write about themselves, the voice actor makes the character show genuine concern or paranoia. In one scene, a voice actor of a character starts singing in such a way that makes you even more terrified for another character’s life. There was one character whose voice actor could have done better or have been cast properly, because this character was a threat to the protagonist and they did not sound intimidating enough.
Perfect Blue – Final Thoughts
My first initial viewing of Perfect Blue left me confused just as much as the MC Mima was throughout 65% of the film. I felt that way because the film would sometimes make transitions of scenes that would warp Mima’s reality. The ending of the film maybe ambiguous, but I believe I deduced what happened to the character Mima at the end of the film and I am actually satisfied with my deduction. I had to watch the film a 3 times and do research on other audiences reviews to help me understand what I missed. I watched it two times in subtitles and one time in English.
This film requires close attention, thinking, and multiple viewings to understand the big picture of the story. The film was so complex that it took me 3 to 4 days to write this review and post it. Would I say this film is worth watching? Yes. I don’t know how this film would affect you, but I am completely obsessed with Perfect Blue. Perfect Blue is the perfect psychological horror anime film to view, and I am giving the film an A-.
PS: I used to score these films by number, but now I score them by letter grade just because it’s easier for me and you.